What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a condition when the hinge connecting the upper and lower jaw does not work properly, causing pain and a feeling of the jaw becoming stuck.
This hinge is a complex joint as it moves the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem that prevents the muscles, ligaments, discs and bones of this joint from working correctly is called TMJ.
Symptoms of TMJ
It is often hard to know for sure if you have TMJ, because there are many signs and symptoms of TMJ and other conditions share the same symptoms. Your dentist will be able to make a correct diagnosis through various examinations and X-rays. Part of the dental examination that is used to diagnose TMJ includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Headaches, earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- Clicking or popping sounds when you open or close your mouth
- Pain when yawning, opening your mouth wide or chewing
- Jaws that lock or become stuck
- Tenderness around the jaw area
- A change in the way the top and bottom rows of teeth fit together
Causes of TMJ
Its is sometimes impossible to pinpoint the cause of this misalignment of the jaw. However, possible causes of the disorder include:
- Teeth grinding
How is TMJ Treated?
There is no single cure for TMJ, but there are different treatments that may reduce the symptoms. Treatments include eliminating muscle spasms and pain through applying heat or taking medications such as muscle-relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs. If the disorder is brought on by teeth grinding, treatment would include reducing the harmful effects of clenching and grinding by wearing an appliance, such as a bite plate or splint. The appliance is custom made to fit over the upper teeth and keep them from grinding against the lower teeth. Learning relaxation techniques can help control muscle tension in the jaw. Counselling and other methods of relaxation can be used as a treatment to eliminate stress induced TMJ. When all other treatments are unsuccessful, jaw joint surgery is an option.